Friday, October 23, 2009

A Universal Pastime

This week, I have been busy with the inventory of antique books housed in The Governor’s Academy Archives. There are approximately 300 books, with the oldest dating to the 17th century. Many of the books—their handcrafted bindings and leather covers worn but resilient—can be traced to their use during the earliest years of the academy, when Headmaster Samuel Moody educated hundreds of boys during his 27-year tenure (1763-1790). So many of these boys went on to lead notable lives in government, military, business, and the ministry. It is possible to identify several of the antique books as belongings of specific students; inscribed with the handwritten “Dummer’s School,” the oldest of the books also list their owner’s name and date of ownership. Some of the books were handed down from student to student, traceable through chronological order.

While the signatures begin to personalize these items, a few books reveal a bit more. In R. Brookes’ The General Gazetteer: Or, Compendius Geographical Dictionary, a 1762 publication that was shared by William Williams of Salem and Samuel Moody of Newbury (students of the academy ca. 1783-1785), one can see, tucked on the inside front cover and initial page, an example of 18th century student doodling.

In the photographs below, doodles from the inside cover of The General Gazetteer can be seen, including an outline of two male figures, one much more detailed than the other, and labeled with “John Stoddard”. The page is ripped just next to this text, but it is likely that it read “Wanton” to reflect the name of another Dummer School student, John Wanton Stoddard of Newport, RI. Stoddard attended the academy during Headmaster Samuel Moody’s tenure. Is the Stoddard’s drawing of himself…or perhaps this is a caricature from a friend (Williams? Moody?).

Apparently, the contents of The General Gazetteer—descriptions of “all the empires, kingdoms, states, republics, provinces, cities, chief towns, forts, fortresses, castles, citadels, seas, harbours, bays, rivers, lakes, mountains, capes, and promontories in the known world; together with the government, policy, customs, manners, and religion of the inhabitants—was not enough to keep Dummer boys singularly focused!

Friday, October 9, 2009

18th Century Receipt of Funds Used to Construct the Little Red School House

The Governor's Academy Archives houses several 18th century documents that detail the logistics behind the establishment of a grammar school, as laid out in the Last Will and Testament of William Dummer. The following image shows a handwritten receipt from 1762, signed by Moses Parsons, minister of Byfield Parish at the time and head of a special committee charged with establishing "Dumr Charity School" and securing a qualified headmaster, and by Joseph Gerrish, also committee member. The receipt shows the rent charged for the year prior to the school's formation--5 pounds 6 shillings plus "light pence"--that was used to construct the Little Red School House. Below the image is a transcription for ease of reading.

Byfield Dec. 31, 1762

Rec’d. Of Capt. Joseph Hale & Mr. Daniel Palmer the sum of Five Pounds Six Shillings & Light Pence for the hire or the great House & Farm, lately belonging to the Hon’ble William Dummer Esq-deceas’d not included in the Leases given of said Farm, the said sum being due for the Rent of said House & Land since the Tenth Day of October 1761 to the Tenth Day of October last past, which sum is rec’d by us in order to pay or Satisfy for, a Grammar School House, erected & built on said Farm, agreeable to the Direction of the last Will & Testament of the (s’d) deceased.

Moses Parsons
Joseph Gerrish

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cars on Campus

During the past year, I have gathered many examples of cars found on the Governor's Academy campus. Here are a few of my favorites from various years.

Photograph 1: A driver identified as Dummer Academy staffer in the 1939 Milestone yearbook

Photograph 2: Cars parked for campus Event, 1951

Photograph 3: Driving school vehicle, 1978

Photograph 4: Volkswagon Rabbit hatchback, 1978

Photograph 5: Peter Bragdon with antique automobile, 1993

In addition to the many relevant photographs housed in the Archives, converted 16 mm films are available that show automobiles, buses, and maintenance vehicles from the 1930s on. If any car buffs can identify the vehicles, please let me know!